Aston Villa staring into the abyss as Papiss Cisse strikes to give Newcastle the points
Papiss Cisse's 11th goal of the season handed Newcastle a first home win of 2015 and plunged Aston Villa deeper into Barclays Premier League relegation trouble.
The Senegal international's assured 37th-minute finish, which came against the run of play at St James' Park, was enough to secure a 1-0 victory, just the second of head coach John Carver's reign.
However, Villa will feel desperately aggrieved not to have left Tyneside with something to show for their efforts after enjoying the better of the game for long periods and forcing keeper Tim Krul into two vital saves.
But when the final whistle sounded, it was the Magpies, much to the relief of the bulk of a crowd of 51,573, who emerged with the points as the visitors slipped to a seventh successive league defeat.
Carver had demanded a response from his players after their horror show at Manchester City last weekend, but what he got for the majority of the first half was a disjointed and mediocre display.
Newcastle simply could not string three passes together and their only real threat came when full-back Daryl Janmaat got forward down the right and delivered balls into the box.
Indeed, Villa keeper Brad Guzan did not have a single save to make until the opening goal arrived eight minutes before the break.
The visitors were little better during a scrappy opening period, but it was they who settled and started to play the ball around, with Ashley Westwood and Tom Cleverley prompting from central midfield and striker Christian Benteke making his presence felt.
However, the Belgium international was presented with three first-half opportunities and only tested Krul with one of them, side-footing wide from Westwood's 24th-minute pass and seeing a 33rd-minute strike charged down either side of an acrobatic overhead kick which the Dutchman turned away at full stretch.
Strike-partner Scott Sinclair found himself in behind Janmaat as he met Westwood's 35th-minute pass, but he too could not trouble Krul as the Magpies got away with more careless defending.
But the game changed two minutes later when Janmaat once again worked his way into a promising position and sent in a cross which central defender Jores Okore failed to cut out.
The ball fell nicely for Cisse, who controlled before firing expertly past Guzan, whose first real involvement of the game was to pick the ball out of his net.
It might have been 2-0 three minutes before the whistle when Emmanuel Riviere, preferred to Ayoze Perez, powered a header just wide from Sammy Ameobi's corner, and the home side left the field to muted applause after a largely indifferent performance.
Newcastle returned in more positive mood but continued to take poor options, with Gabriel Obertan wasting a beautiful 49th-minute Ameobi pass by shooting wide from an impossible angle rather than trying to pick out a team-mate in the middle.
Villa continued to give as good as they got, although without troubling Krul, and the game remained very much in the balance with the hosts never really looking like killing it off.
Cisse might have doubled his tally with 58 minutes gone when he got his head to an Ameobi free-kick, but steered his effort wide of the post.
The Magpies were dealt a blow when Massadio Haidara, one of only four fit senior defenders, was carried from the field on a stretcher and replaced by Ryan Taylor, and their mood might have darkened further had Krul not managed to block Cleverley's 62nd-minute shot with his legs after Benteke had flicked him into space in the box.
But the Holland international very nearly gifted Villa a 71st-minute equaliser when he failed to collect Westwood's corner, sparking a goalmouth melee which ultimately ended with Benteke putting the ball into the net, but from an offside position.
Substitute Ayoze Perez was denied a second goal by the post after Guzan had managed to get only his fingertips to Ameobi's 76th-minute corner, but one proved to be enough.